Posts tagged ‘Congress’

FCC’s Spectrum Auction Framework Could Harm TV Viewers and Stations Across the Country

On May 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on an order to establish a framework for broadcast spectrum incentive auctions. Unfortunately, the framework includes rules that could harm television viewers and local businesses. FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly dissented from the vote for a variety of reasons and the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents TV stations across the country, expressed disappointment in the order after it was adopted.

Some of the top concerns for broadcasters and their viewers include:

  • Viewer access to local TV channels. “OET-69” sounds like something from outer space, but it has an important purpose on planet Earth – it’s the name of the method that has been used to figure out what areas and viewers are covered by a local broadcast station’s over-the-air signal. Though the Spectrum Act passed by Congress required the FCC to use this method to determine coverage, the FCC wants to use a different system, which means many viewers could lose their favorite local channels.
  • Local breaking news coverage. Local news organizations, especially television and radio broadcasters, cover urgent, on-the-scene breaking news to keep their viewers and listeners safe. The FCC wants to limit the amount of spectrum available for the equipment needed to report live and remotely, which could keep TV viewers from hearing important news just when they need it most.
  • Imposing large costs on local stations. After the spectrum auction, many broadcasters – even some who chose not to participate – will be involved in a process called “repacking.” Local TV stations will be forced to move into different channels to free larger blocks of spectrum for wireless carriers. This process could impose large costs on affected broadcasters that would not be covered by the government, draining vital funds from stations and impacting local economies.

There are other significant problems with the order, including making the auction process needlessly complicated and failing to address important concerns for rural viewers and viewers who live near the Canada and Mexico borders.

When Congress authorized the spectrum auction, it established boundaries that clearly intended to protect broadcast TV viewers from harm. In passing this order, the FCC has failed to honor Congress’ intent. 

May 27, 2014 at 11:58 am 3 comments

Members of Congress are Standing Up for Rural TV Viewers

More than 22.4 million American households (representing 59.7 million viewers) receive television exclusively through over-the-air broadcast signals – not a pay service such as cable or satellite. These viewers rely solely on free, broadcast TV for their local news, favorite broadcast programs and emergency information. Without broadcast TV, these rural households, which include farmers, ranchers and small rural communities, would be left without a critical lifeline during times of crisis.

From the devastation created by Hurricane Sandy and the tornadoes in Oklahoma earlier this summer, we have seen the vital role broadcasters play in communities, especially in times of tragedy. Time and time again, local TV and radio stations help warn citizens when a weather emergency is approaching and help rebuild after the storm.

But beyond times of danger, many viewers in rural America depend on local TV and radio to learn of important issues that may affect their livelihoods. Farmers and ranchers especially depend on broadcasters for weather information and agriculture news.

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming first-ever incentive spectrum auction could threaten rural broadcast TV viewers’ access to local channels, because of the low-power stations and TV translators used to deliver broadcast signals. To learn more about how the spectrum auction may impact rural viewers, click here.

Members of Congress realize the importance of broadcast TV in isolated communities that range from mountainous regions to farmland across the country, and are voicing their concerns to the FCC with a letter to Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. We applaud these members of Congress for recognizing the valuable role broadcast TV plays in rural communities.

August 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm 1 comment

Members of Congress Voice Their Support for Broadcast TV Viewers

If not done correctly, the upcoming spectrum auction has the potential to disrupt Americans’ access to broadcast television – the local channels that are the most-watched and also available for free with an antenna. This disruption would leave countless of viewers without the ability to receive local news and important updates on severe weather, as well as their favorite broadcast shows, such as American Idol, Parks and Rec, How I Met Your Mother or Scandal.

Many members of Congress realize the risks that come with the upcoming spectrum auctions. These lawmakers feel strongly that TV viewers, especially those who rely solely on broadcast TV and do not subscribe to cable or satellite, service, should be protected. These lawmakers are standing up for their constituents and voicing their concerns to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

To date, the Congressional Tri-Caucus and the following 15 congressional delegations have sent letters to the FCC, asking for more information on how viewers will be protected during the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auction. You can read their letters below.

Is your member of Congress supporting your ability to receive free, local television?  Let them know if it’s important to you by joining an army of tens of thousands of viewers standing up for the future of TV.

June 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm 1 comment

Hundreds of Broadcasters Flock to Washington to Protect TV Viewers

This week, hundreds of broadcasters from across the country are in the nation’s capital to meet with their members of Congress.

This annual call on Congress serves as an opportunity to educate legislators on the issues that impact local stations and their communities.

With nearly 500 broadcasters descending on Capitol Hill, broadcasters are committed to doing everything within their power to ensure that viewers’ access to the news, emergency updates and entertainment they rely on each day is not jeopardized.

Ironically, this week a major snow storm is also hitting the D.C. area, serving as another reminder of the indispensable role local TV and radio stations play in times of weather emergency.

In addition to broadcasters’ lifeline role in providing important information to Americans, broadcasters are discussing the upcoming spectrum incentive auction process with their legislators. Broadcasters are stressing the need for the FCC to adhere to the intent of Congress and ensure that free, local television remains an indispensable service for the American people.

For information on what you can do to keep broadcast TV free and accessible for everyone to enjoy, click here.

March 6, 2013 at 10:09 am 1 comment

NAB’s Spectrum Expert: Five Things to Watch

The National Association of Broadcasters’ executive vice president of Strategic Planning, Rick Kaplan, is broadcasters’ foremost expert and advocate on the upcoming broadcast spectrum auctions. The Federal Communications Commission is currently planning the auction and has indicated it will take place next year. Kaplan offers five main areas that local television stations – and their viewers – should watch as the FCC takes on the unprecedented task of auctioning broadcast TV spectrum.

Coordination Along the Border. To free up nationwide bands of spectrum for mobile broadband, the FCC must update its agreements with Canada and Mexico that currently hamstring the agency’s ability to relocate broadcast stations operating within 250 miles of the border. If the commission fails to reach some agreement—as the statute requires—the auction will yield less money for the Treasury, strand stations along the border and lead to significant and harmful interference issues for television viewers in border regions.

Repacking Part I. The FCC has offered little details as to how it plans to shuffle the remaining television stations following the auction (known as “repacking”). The Commission is currently creating what will surely be extremely complex new software to run the imminent auction and repacking process, throwing out the program they used during the 2009 transition to digital television. Unfortunately, the new program will not have been tested. Broadcast stations should have the ability to test the software and provide feedback to the FCC to ensure their viewers are not harmed during the repacking process.

Repacking: The Sequel. The Spectrum Act, passed by Congress in 2012, compels the FCC to take “all reasonable efforts” to preserve a stations’ coverage area and protect the existing viewers it serves. Broadcasters should be mindful of how and by whom this is interpreted. The proposed FCC rulemaking included some options that could have a detrimental impact on these coverage areas, broadcast stations and their current viewers. The National Association of Broadcasters offered modifications that would give the FCC some more flexibility, and broadcasters will continue to aggressively advocate that their viewers should not lose access to local stations due to the FCC repacking process.

The TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund. Broadcast stations that don’t participate in the auction are rightly concerned about being compensated if they are forced to move. In the Spectrum Act, Congress sought to make the auction as “voluntary” as possible, giving the FCC a $1.75 billion budget to repack and reimburse broadcasters that are forced to move. The FCC, however, doesn’t seem to consider the fund as a budget, meaning there could be out-of-pocket costs for every broadcaster forced to move – those costs could mean less local programming and community service for stations and their viewers.

The Variable Band Plan. The proposed FCC rulemaking recommends creating different band plans in different markets (based on the amount of spectrum it can recover in each). But this is likely to cause major interference for viewers in adjacent markets between broadcasters and wireless carriers operating on the same channels for the first time.

Broadcasters are watching all these issues closely, and working with the FCC and Congress to ensure that as the Commission auctions the broadcast airwaves, viewers continue to have the local TV on which they rely for news, emergency information and great entertainment.

February 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm 1 comment

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